Celebrating the best of a difficult year

best-of-difficult-year
Here’s hoping that 2022 brings an open road of clear sailing for all.

I know that many of us are glad to have left 2021 behind. The threat, hardship, and inconvenience the past year has brought to all of us via the COVID-19 virus and via all the tragedies and loss of life resulting from the devastating effects of climate change have touched us all in some way. I will delve further into the issue of climate change in cocoa growing countries in a future post. But in this post, I want to focus on the positive life events of this past year that have helped me cope with an inability to engage in international travel (necessary for my work as a travel writer and one who specifically focuses on the enticing world of chocolate travel) and the greatly reduced ability to host the in-person chocolate events that have brought smiles to my face and the faces of the hundreds (likely thousands!) of chocolate lovers who have attended those events and shared some delicious global chocolate with me over the past nine years.

happiness
Having met my partner, Kim Lawrence, in May of 2021 was the highlight of my year. Having an understanding and supportive partner certainly made the second half of a difficult year so much easier to manage and enjoy.

We took a road trip through Western Canada to see friends and meet family. What a joy it was to take a road trip again! I’m sure it’s been 20 years since I took a road trip of any length in my own country. How long has it been since you had a road trip of your own?

make any trip better with good chocolate

Especially during the uncertainty of COVID times, it’s advisable for travelers to take some snacks along for the ride as it’s difficult to know what establishments you’ll find open and what stock they’ll have on hand during this time of short supplies. We therefore left Winnipeg with a good stash of Decadence Chocolates to enjoy during our journey and to share with family and friends. Please read this post for more about Decadence Chocolates of Winnipeg. The quality and variety of their handcrafted chocolate creations is incredible. 

decadence-chocolates
We enjoyed all of the Decadence Chocolates we brought along on our road trip, but especially the amazing Element Bars. Be sure to try one if you place a Decadence order.

We traveled west from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where we visited family, and did more exploring of one of my favourite Prairie cities. It was a thrill to discover The Better Good shop, where you can find a great selection of bean-to-bar sustainable world chocolate. I bought the Chamomile Lavender chocolate bar crafted by Raaka Chocolate of Brooklyn, New York, featuring 66% unroasted cacao beans from Tanzania. This was a lovely bar made from totally organic ingredients and high grade Tanzanian cacao. It made me feel good to find this quality of US-made chocolate made with African cocoa beans sold in a small Canadian city. And I also bought some fabulous organic bean-to-bar chocolate from Wild Mountain Chocolate (see below.) The global marketplace certainly enables us to enjoy top quality handcrafted chocolate no matter where we live or visit.

If you’re a chocolate lover visiting Saskatoon, don’t miss a stop at The Better Good. They carry a terrific selection of world chocolate in addition to a variety of sustainable goods of various types.
chocolate-saskatoon
You’ll find a great selection of artisan chocolate at The Better Good in Saskatoon.

Another great chocolate find on this Western Canada road trip was meeting Glen and Helen of Wild Mountain Chocolate based in Invermere, British Columbia. We met them at the Invermere Farmers and Artists Market in August and truly enjoyed sampling all their chocolate offerings. There will be a forthcoming post on this site featuring this delectable organic bean-to-bar maker and the beautiful region it is from in the near future, so stay tuned.  

wild-mountain-chocolate
Helen and Glen enjoy sharing the story behind their delicious organic bean-to-bar chocolate.

Our trip back home to Manitoba was sooner than expected as the wild fires out west were blazing and the COVID numbers were climbing. But at least we did get away for a couple of weeks and had a wonderful time on our first trip together. Hopefully, there will be many more in the near future, as we’re hoping for a beach wedding sometime soon. Yes, we got engaged on Christmas Eve, 2021! Very exciting to be embarking on a new life with plenty of optimism and hope for the future.

Let me know how you’ve been coping through these trying times, of any great chocolate you’ve discovered or been enjoying and of the place you’re most anxious to visit once the world reopens to us all. All the best for 2022 and beyond.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

85 Responses

  1. Donna Murphy says:

    Hi so good to see your post i have been thinking about you. Sounds like you got married Congratulations,you sound so happy heres to many years of love and happiness Did you get to Nova Scotia

    • Hello Donna. So nice to hear from you. Thx for the good wishes. Yes, I got married again & am very happy. I hope you’re both doing well. No, I haven’t been to NS in a very long while. Perhaps someday …

  2. How absolutely lovely – I wish you a lovely honeymoon with lots of delicious chocolate and even more delicious love and companionship xxx congratulations
    Carla Corelli recently posted…The 3-Minute Gratitude Practice That Will Change Your LifeMy Profile

  3. I loved your blog post on coming chocolatouring with you. The idea of combining a chocolate tour with a small group of people to taste chocolate sounds amazing! I also appreciate your mention of how the cocoa beans are dried in the sun before being ground, processed, and made into chocolate. I’ve found it helpful to learn more about the chocolate process in general and it’s good to know that there are different ways of making it.

  4. Lovers of chocolate? Check! Chocolate lovers who’ve had some bad luck in life? Double check! Maybe we like the idea of eating healthy chocolate more than just eating sugar bombs and going for fancy desserts, but even if you have no regrets about those, we can assure you all of this has not made us immune to depression. We find ourselves facing many of the same situations that were once foreign only to people coming from countries where everything in life is in its very “best conditions”.

  5. ShunCy says:

    For my part as an entrepreneur, I thought it was time for reflection on 2017. What a challenging and tumultuous year that was! It is not easy to get out your coat/get dressed to “get over to” something on an annual basis (specially when you’re in a new country like ours.) But this is for 2018 we shall discuss. As entrepreneurs, especially digital ones, we often say, oh yes business — it just gets better by the day… Right? Right. That does not mean it’s easy though it’s actually been anything BUT! Our last 8 years have had twists and turns along the way as well as some great ups and downs, with highs and lows, peaks and troughs… A lot has happened since and some things never die of course, like money troubles! We must have them all the way round, in business too don’t forget!
    So here I am giving my views, thoughts and feelings about 2016 and what did happen in the end!
    On the one hand at least! 2016 has been in the words of our friend Donald Miller “a fucking blast!” With all the work on “the big picture”…

  6. ShunCy says:

    Hello!
    Thanks for reading my Medium journal. I hope it brings you something of value , I could use your feedback on social media (twitter) or leave your email below and let’s engage more regularly! 🙂

    If this doesn’t motivate you why not check out my previous posts on my journey which is dedicated to sharing meaningful, honest yet inspiring content —
    • How I was able to quit blogging! Blogging is not really all about writing — It takes a lot more —

    • Why we as humans need to take care of our health, be more mindful
    • When your dreams become small in time
    • My year of no writing
    • A bit personal but a bit fun — blog posts with less words than most #lifeis…

    • Hello and thank you for your comment. My apologies for a tardy reply as I’ve not been giving my site as much attention as I should be. Like you, I have been distracted with other matters of life. Best of luck with your writing.

  7. Janet says:

    We are so happy for you Doreen, life has not been easy in last few years. We have been fortunate to meet Kim with you. What a wonderful couple you two make. Congratulations

    • Thx so much, Janet. As you and I were tweens together, it means so much to me that you remain an incredibly important part of my life in our senior years. We’re looking forward to the future!

  8. Nancy says:

    Congratulations to you and Kim, Doreen! Wishing you blessings in your shared life!

  9. Bola says:

    Congratulations Doreen. Wishing you the very best!

  10. Pat says:

    We were so looking forward to meeting Kim in person and having a great visit with you both this past summer. Hopefully you will be able to head this way safely/soon. Congratulations on your engagement! There are some beautiful beaches, great BC wine and excellent chocolate makers to celebrate with. Hopefully you will be able to travel safely soon.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Pat. We would have liked nothing better than to visit in person with you this summer. Alas, that was not to be. How grateful we are for ZOOM, and the fact that the four of us can Zoom every week or two. I’ve passed on your comment to Kim to give the West Coast equal billing with the East Coast. ❤️

  11. Thrilled for you! I may have to use that beautiful open road picture with one of my poems-with your permission, of course.
    Wishing you many blessings
    Diannemtarpyauthor.com

    • Hi Dianne and thx for your good wishes. Yes, you have my permission to use the road shot in one of your poems. Let me know when you have it written/published and I’d love to read it.

  12. Giselle Merke says:

    Wonderful news! Congratulations! Enjoy every moment. You very much deserve this Doreen. ❤️

  13. Virginia says:

    Good on ya Doreen. Looking forward to meeting Kim over wine, chocolate and conversation soon.

    • That would be wonderful, Ginny! We’d love to have you come for a visit anytime. And if the world ever opens up again, I’m sure we’ll be through Toronto at some point. Looking forward to catching up with you soon.

  14. susan gill says:

    Congratulations Doreen ! See you in the spring!

  15. Jeannette Paladino says:

    Doreen — wonderful news. Congratulations on your engagement. I know you had a tough few years and I’m very happy for you. You are a bright spot in an otherwise dreary year living with convid.

  16. So excited for you both Doreen & Kim!! Safe travels and know where ever you end up saying your vows will be the perfect spot! XO

  17. Congratulations, Doreen and Kim! What a wonderful way to end a long and troubling year! Wishing you great happiness in 2022 and beyond.

    Our road trips ended with the arrival of COVID. We sold the motor home this summer, but have plans to drive to Nova Scotia in June, fingers crossed. Instead of writing travel blogs, I’ve been writing a novel and memoirs.

  18. Donna Murphy says:

    Congratulations on your Engagement and up coming Marriage Hope you have many years of love and Happiness .

    • Thx so much, Donna, & thx for the Christmas card as well. I hope you’re both doing well.

      • Donna Murphy says:

        we are hanging in , all our family are well so far including family in Manitoba Miss getting together
        with the kids for the Holidays Stay safe looking forward to seeing lots of wedding pictures. If you get east look us up we have beautiful beaches in Cape Breton Nova Scotia.

  19. Phoenix says:

    Congratulations on your engagement We received your Christmas card and we’re so thrilled to learn of your new-found happiness.
    Phoenix recently posted…Jane EyreMy Profile

  20. Linda Strange says:

    Ahhh… the sweet things in life ! It’s wonderful to have something other than Covid for you to remember about 2021. Much love. LL

  21. Doreen, how lovely to hear of your engagement. My heartiest congratulations.

  22. Congrats to you both! Sounds like you still were able to find great chocolate up north. Be well.

  23. Sue says:

    Congrats, Doreen! I’m so happy for you. Glad you could squeeze a heck of a lot good into 2021.
    Sue recently posted…11 Traditional Greek FoodsMy Profile

  24. You always are, and have been, one to always look on the bright side of life and find more positive than negative things in your life. This year has indeed been challenging. You’ve handled it all so well, pivoting with your work as needed and carrying on. Building a new relationship has challenges of its own and I couldn’t be happier for you and Kim. How wonderful that you found each other and will travel on life’s journeys, literally and figuratively, together now. Road trips are fun and were the best way to travel in 2021. We did some short and some longer ones, often involved camping with family, which was fun. We’ve all tried to make the best of a bad situation in 2021 and we all look forward to a happier, healthier 2022. I wish nothing but the best for you this year, and always.

    • Thx so much for your heartfelt words, Christine. I find that being an optimist makes it so much easier to deal with difficulties. Especially those that are beyond our control, such as the isolation COVID has forced upon all of us. Here’s hoping that 2022 will once again open the world and create more opportunities for adventure. All the best to you as well, my friend. ❤️

  25. Isobel Warren says:

    What a joy it is to read your exciting and positive post, Doreen. I wish you and Kim much happiness, much good travel, much chocolate!!! Warmest wishes, iso.

  26. Congratulations. I’m happy for you. Lots to look forward to in the new year!
    Donna E Janke recently posted…Historic Pumping Station Eatery in Winnipeg, ManitobaMy Profile

  27. My blog just announced our “Best” of the year: Le Grand Confectionary, which we were lucky to test out in the late winter and spring in 2021.

    I am so glad you are able to travel again, Doreen, and to find more chocolate to tell us all about.

  28. What a wonderful way to end the year! I am so happy for you, Doreen… and wish you and Kim much happiness in 2022 and beyond! Looking forward to meeting him and seeing you again, somewhere warm and tropical! Cheers!

    • Your comment gave me goosebumps, Debbie. It would be great to meet up with you and Stephen on a tropical island. I think you’ve been to Curacao? We’re giving it and Fiji close consideration for a future trip.

  29. I’m so excited and happy for your Christmas Eve surprise! Full throttle into 2022! Lots of love, dear.

  30. Lise Carbonneau says:

    Congratulations to you both. Sooo incredibly happy for you!

    • Thx so much, Lise, and so great to hear from you. I hope you’re doing well. Also heard from Jan Tooth today and we’re chatting later. I still look back to the WBOM days with great fondness.

  31. So happy for you! You deserve the best.
    Suzanne Boles recently posted…How writing helped me through griefMy Profile

  32. We have some great beaches here. . .just sayin’ and a fabulous expat licenced Celebrant right here in the village. . .just sayin’ and I am also just sayin’ a HUGE congratulations to you two!!

    • Such a tempting invitation, Jackie! We both love Greece and Spain and were really hoping to get out that way if the COVID situation becomes more manageable. It would be great to visit your little village as I’ve loved reading your posts about it.

  33. Congratulations, Doreen! This is great news! All the best to both of you!

  34. Barb Waterman says:

    So wonderful that you met a kindred soul during 2021 . Isolating is much easier with someone else with you .
    An east coast wedding is perfect . A close friend of mine had one planned for August 2021 and a small group of us were going to attend . However with limited travel they married in October at home . I pass this “torch “ to you , my friend but fill your dreams in your own special way .

  35. Kim Lawrence says:

    The road trip was a perfect way to get to know each other and it was also a fun way for Doreen to meet my family and all went well. Love you Doreen.

  36. This is such a positive and uplifting post Doreen! It’s wonderful that you and Kim found happiness in 2021. A beach wedding sounds perfect.) It’s so nice to see how happy the two of you are. Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2022 filled with travel and chocolate!
    Sherry Perry recently posted…Why We Need the U.S. Coast Guard in the ArcticMy Profile

    • Thx so much for your kind words, Sherryl. You can now see why I’d been ignoring my site for the past 6 months. Life has gotten busy with so many other things, but now that we’ve got the clutter cleared, the house painted inside and Kim moved in, I can focus more on my work–which is no hardship by any means.

  37. Kathy Andrew says:

    Congratulations on your engagement Doreen- very happy for you! And we’ll done on forging ahead and taking a road trip. Wishing you all the best for the coming year. Can’t wait to see the wedding photos!!

  38. Margaret Anne Fehr says:

    Doreen and Kim, didn’t know that marriage was on the horizon for you two! Congratulations! So great that you guys found one another. Life is enhanced with a compatible and loving partner!
    Glad to see some of the stops along the way of your summer road trip that I had heard about when we chatted. Let’s hope 2022 will be a banner year for all of us and we can start making meaningful memories.
    Love to you both!

  39. Betty Jackson says:

    Great News! Congratulations! Having a great partner is so comforting during this world wide mess. I am so glad to hear you and Kim are making it a very special 2022. Chocolate and car trips are the best way to travel and it’s our favourite way to go even if it is only in our own province. One time though, we had to figure out how to get that dark brown stuff off our new blue velvet car seats. Memorable trips …. B&B

    • Hi Betty and thx so much for your comment. I guess I’ve spoiled the surprise for Toastmasters tomorrow, eh? Yes, I’ve loved hearing about the little MB jaunts you and Bruce have taken over the past year. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to more passionately appreciate our own neck of the woods.

  40. Irene says:

    Love the advice about taking chocolate along for the ride!
    Irene recently posted…Best Italian Gourmet Foods For Travelers Yearning To Be In ItalyMy Profile

    • You know me, Irene! I’m like a blood hound when it comes to sniffing out good chocolate! And I learned from my friend Kathe that one should never leave the house without some fine chocolate as a reserve. ❤️

  41. Christine says:

    Congratulations Doreen and Kim. Lovely to see your happiness. I’m sure 2022 will be a wonderful year.

  42. Linda Paul says:

    Oh my, I’m so glad you’ve found a compatible and fun-loving partner! And during times of COVID, no less! A time when having someone close is more important than ever, but growing a relationship of that sort is more difficult than ever. Congratulations.

    After publishing the book about my mother, I had planned a cross-country road trip that would entail retracing her route (to the best of my imagination) from NYC to Laramie. That trip, and the new car I was planning to purchase for this trip, are still in limbo. This summer I did travel within my locale, once to northern Idaho for trail maintenance project + solo camping, and once a trip in and around Oregon to visit friends and the ocean. Other than those trips, I’ve stayed close to home. I’m pretty content at home, fortunately.

  43. Ceci says:

    Congratulations on your engagement! I’m so glad you have a partner to share your joy and passion for chocolate too!
    Road trips can be such fun. I joined “Bloganuary” – a month-long daily prompt event – and one of the first stories I wrote was about that. Check it out if you can: https://imagesbyceci.com/2022/01/02/road-trip-oh-yeah/

    All the best to both of you. Perhaps you can do a beach wedding in NB or NS!
    Ceci recently posted…First LoveMy Profile

    • Thx do much for your words of encouragement, Ceci. Always great to hear from you. I’ll check out your story today. And what a great idea for an East Coast wedding! Kim has not visited your wonderful region and he has Celtic roots, so I’m sure it would be of interest.

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